Group photo of the PLA Navy’s first escort taskforce – destroyers Wuhan and Haikou, comprehensive supply ship Weishanhu, and a ship-borne helicopter (Photo by Li Tang)
BEIJING, Dec. 27 -- The year 2021 marks the 13th anniversary of the PLA Navy performing escort missions at the Gulf of Aden, to where the PLA Navy has now dispatched 39 batches of escort taskforces.
On December 26, 2008, in accordance with relevant resolution of the UN Security Council (UNSC) and with the approval of the Chinese State Council and Central Military Commission (CMC), a Chinese PLA naval escort taskforce comprising the guided-missile destroyers Haikou (Hull 171) and Wuhan (Hull169), as well as the comprehensive supply ship Weishanhu (Hull 887), set out from a military port in Sanya, south China’s Hainan province, to perform escort missions at the Gulf of Aden and waters off the Somalian coast. It was the first time that China sent military forces overseas to safeguard the nation’s strategic interests, the first time the Chinese military organized maritime combat forces to fulfill international humanitarian obligations overseas, and the first time that the PLA Navy protected an important transport route in the open sea.
On January 29, 2009, a helicopter and some special operations members dispatched from the destroyer Wuhan successfully saved a Greek merchant ship besieged by pirates, the first time for them to save a trapped merchant ship.
On September 10, 2009, the guided-missile frigate Zhoushan (Hull 529) of the third PLA naval escort taskforce and the Russian Navy’s large anti-submarine destroyer Admiral Tributs jointly performed the escort mission at the Gulf of Aden, marking the first joint mission of the PLAN escorting force with a foreign vessel.
On September 18, 2009, the third PLA naval escort taskforce and its Russian counterpart carried out the joint maritime anti-piracy exercise code-named “Peace Blue Shield 2009”, the first joint exercise with a foreign taskforce in the mission waters.
On March 7, 2011, the guided-missile frigates Wenzhou(Hull 526) and Ma’anshan (Hull 525) of the 8th PLA naval escort taskforce berthed at the Port of Karachi, Pakistan, and participated in the multilateral maritime exercise “Peace 2011”, as well as international maritime conferences and seminars.
From March 26 to April 7, 2015, the 19th PLA naval escort taskforce was assigned to Yemen for an evacuation mission. The taskforce passed three countries, four ports and one island within ten days, and successfully evacuated five batches of 897 Chinese and foreign citizens in total. It was the first time that China mobilized military vessels to evacuate overseas Chinese at foreign ports, the first time China evacuated foreign nationals, and the first time China performed the evacuation mission under the threat of gunfire.
From April 3, 2015, to February 5, 2016, the 20th PLA naval escort taskforce comprising the guided-missile destroyer Jinan(Hull105), the guided-missile frigate Yiyang (Hull 548) and the comprehensive supply ship Qiandaohu (Hull 886) made a round-the-world voyage through 13 countries – Sudan, Egypt, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Poland, Portugal, the US, Cuba, Mexico, Australia, East Timor, and Indonesia – after accomplishing the four-month-long escort mission at the Gulf of Aden and in waters off the Somalian coast and a visit to India’s Mumbai. The 309-day mission brought the taskforce to 18 ports in 16 countries, through three oceans and five continents, and across 13 straits and three canals, making a marvelous record in its history.
The future escort missions remain a long and hard journey filled with unpredictable risks. But the Chinese PLA Navy, having embarked on its journey, will continue to show the world with top-grade performance that its pace forward is unstoppable.